File Top Secret: a guest post by Suzanna Hutton and Sally Fagan at Business Language Champions


Espionage came to Oundle School last Tuesday as Business Language 1Champions were proud to co-host ‘The Word is not Enough’ with friends from GCHQ. But this was not a normal GCHQ challenge because the messages that the teams were encoding and decoding were in French, German or Spanish.

10 teams took part. Befitting the secretive nature of the task at hand, students were known only by their first names and represented sections from 001 – 010 – no fancy team names today.

Tasked with cracking a drug smuggling ring in about 3 hours(!), 2the participating students faced encryption and decryption, coded audio messages, an introduction to a new foreign language (Chinese, Korean or Arabic) and the kidnapping of their teachers (some were more bothered by this than others). Perhaps even more stressful was a 4 minute presentation of their findings in front of a panel of judges in their target language.

As one of the GCHQ representatives remarked, the thing he likes best about this challenge is that it truly represents much of the work that a GCHQ linguist would undertake, albeit with a swifter resolution than is usual. It is also yet more proof for those who needed it, that the world of languages is a dynamic and exciting one, opening up careers in many fields beyond the traditionally cited ones of teaching and translation.

All 60 students worked extremely hard, facing the tough challenges that were thrown at them with initiative, persistence and good humour. But every competition must have a victor and the winners of a trip to Bletchley Park, kindly donated by GCHQ, were Birkdale School in Sheffield, with the runners-up coming from Oundle School.

Communication skills rank in the top five skills that employers look for
when recruiting. There are now 60 students who have a bette3r idea of what that really means in the GCHQ world.

A final thought for you…is it pure coincidence that both times we have run this event, the winning team has been Section 007, or does someone out there know something we don’t…???

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